I recently came back from a fantastic vacation with my husband and two children. Headed home, I reflected on what made this trip so fulfilling, and it became clear that vacation was wonderful because it was SIMPLE. We didn’t have a host of external commitments -- work dinners, soccer games or plans with friends -- we just had each other.
Since coming home, I've been on a quest to simplify my life--to make it feel more like that vacation--without up and quitting my job and living on a beach. Though don't get me wrong, that's still on the table if I can find a way to get paid to surf or suddenly become independently wealthy.
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Here are seven ways you can lead a more simple life:
1. Honestly assess yourself
Track where you spend your time and money for one week. Before you can make any change, you have to take stock of where you are and after one week, your calendar and credit card will give you a solid view of your priorities.
2. Determine your priorities
Decide for yourself what is valuable to you regardless of how much time you have spent on it historically. Stack rank your activities and financial commitments and make conscious choices about which you will prioritize. Your time is your most precious resource, guard it wisely.
3. Pick your five people
According to motivational speaker Jim Rohn, you are the composite of the five people you spend the most time with. Think about your family, friends and co-workers and ask yourself: “Who are those five people today?” Are those the people you want to be becoming more like? If not, make a change. Don’t allow relationships of convenience to steal time from relationships of substance.
4. Make Your Default Answer 'no'
We live in the world of "yes" and when we are asked to do something our default answer is typically yes. Flip the paradigm and make your default answer "no," By starting with no you are forced to pause and really think about opportunities and how they align with your priorities and values.
5. Cook more
The act of cooking brings simplicity to your life, because it forces you to be home and to pay attention. Admittedly, I’m not a good cook and the process of meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking doesn’t come naturally to me. I avoided it for as long as humanly possible. Now, I am learning to enjoy cooking because it creates distraction free time in my day, when I am truly present.
6. Schedule margin
To simplify your life, you must begin scheduling margin. Margin time is down time that gives you perspective, contentment and rest. Watch a TV show, read a book, take a long walk or a nap. We create so much of the chaos in our lives by not giving our body and mind time to rest. Margin time gives you perspective and renewed energy for the commitments you want to keep.
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7. Celebrate simplicity
Our bodies are programmed to react to stimulus, so re-wiring ourselves to feel fulfilled with margin rather than activity is hard work. Reject the perspective that busy equates to meaningful or important. Rather, celebrate each time you say “no,” schedule margin or intentionally seek simplicity. By recognizing your effort and progress, you will reinforce the behavior and find contentment in your simplified life.